That Something Terrible That Happened Last Night.

IMG_1220Hello! A few days ago I was brainstorming on post ideas (since, yes, I’ve been quiet for a while) and as I was going through my pictures found a couple from the time I visited my mother and sister in Paris. I shared one of these on my Instagram as a #throwback, not knowing that a few days later social media would be full of pictures people had taken at the same place in solidarity with the families and friends of those affected in the wave of terrorist attacks in the city on Friday night. I really don’t think that words are enough, but they’re what I leaned on to make sense of everything that had happened this last week. The following piece is something that I wrote over the weekend while grappling with all of these thoughts.


“Later that night/ i held an atlas in my lap/ ran my fingers across the whole world, / and whispered/ where does it hurt?/ it answered/ everywhere/ everywhere/ everywhere.

– Warsan Shire. “What They Did Yesterday Afternoon”

You’ve almost started to get used to it.

It goes like this: right when “it” happens you’re doing something not unusual. This time round, you’re at a party somewhere in the city with friends you know from college. You’re dancing the night away and eating greasy food at 4 in the morning before finally falling asleep on your friend’s couch. And as you fall asleep, you think to yourself how this night was the most fun you’ve had in a while.

While all of this is happening– the dancing, the greasy food, the falling asleep on a friend’s couch– you have no idea that something terrible is happening in the city where your mother lives, the city where you and your now best friend had the first coffee conversation of many. Something terrible has happened in this city that happened 8 months ago and two years ago in your own country. And another terrible something happened two days before in another city even though you only hear about it now.

Your loved one is OK, but the families of hundreds don’t have the privilege of receiving a message and of marking their loved one as “safe” on Facebook. You pray. You cry and pray for 150 families. But not just for them, because this something terrible that happened has been happening over and over again all over the world, in towns and cities and villages where people do the same things that you do: dance, drink, eat, hang out with friends, dream.

The next day you will go to an outdoor concert in Nairobi where the performer takes his shirt off and while people scream around you you think about the fact that nobody checked your bags when you walked into the venue. You think about the askaris who are scattered here and there, who are holding black, cold guns in their hands. You end up leaving the concert a little early, which is perfect because it means that you miss the traffic leading out of the venue.

As people politicize the story– talk truths about flags and national history and debates about why did Facebook only have a French flag and not a Lebanese one, you listen and read and you think yes this is all true but yet– bullets don’t discriminate. Bullets don’t know to avoid you because of your ethnicity or your language or your national history.

You think to Warsan’s words, to the fact that “everywhere” is as much a descriptor of geographical as it is of temporal location. It hurt yesterday, it hurt a year ago. It hurts when American or Kenyan forces kill or harm civilians in the name of fighting terrorism. It hurts later the same week when Boko Haram murder innocents in Nigeria. It hurts everywhere.

But, we– I, and you, if you are reading this– are alive, still. And it is up to us who are still here to do what we can to make the world a place of more beauty. We can choose courage. We can choose kindness. We can choose to reflect on the ways in which we may be complicit in systems that dehumanize communities with less power. We can choose to speak for the rights of refugees, who are running away from the same violence, whether from Syria, or from Somalia. We can choose to be thoughtful in those  spaces that we do occupy.

Praying for Lebanon, for France, for Syria, for Nigeria, for Burundi praying for #Everywhere that hurt yesterday and today and tomorrow.

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  • Miriam

    It pains me how we sort of remember tragedies in some places and not others, as is the nature of human beings. Thanks for the reminder to pray for everywhere we can while we are still alive.

    • Wanjiku

      I know, right? But then again, grief is such a subjective experience. We mourn for our loved ones more than we would mourn for strangers or for people whom we don’t feel a connection to. Add to that the inequalities of our world and well, we have the situation where people only found out about Garissa months after Paris had happened.

      Side: there’s this thing that Shailja Patel said that has me thinking. She said: “I don’t pray for peace. I fight for justice” which just really hit home. I think both kinds of energy– the prayer and the fight– are important, but that we shouldn’t use prayer as an excuse for inaction.

      Hope you’re well!